“Ask.com: Big Meanies?,” Catholicgauze, 19 May 2006, http://catholicgauze.blogspot.com/2006/05/askcom-big-meanies.html (from tdaxp).
“Ask.com Maps drops the ball – AGAIN,” Catholicgauze, 19 May 2006, http://catholicgauze.blogspot.com/2006/05/askcom-maps-drops-ball-again.html.
“Globalization Competitive Landscape,” by Stephen DeAngelis, Enterprise Resilience Management Blog, 10 August 2006, http://enterpriseresilienceblog.typepad.com/enterprise_resilience_man/2006/08/globalizations_.html.
Stephen F. DeAngelis discusses the search engine Ask (formerly Ask Jeeves) in his latest blog post:
Ask.com has shown a certain level of resiliency simply by surviving when similar companies have not. All of the other surviving competitors mentioned above, however, are behemoths by comparison. That caused the Financial Times to examine how the company survived thus far and how it plans to survive in the future. Ask.com received a financial shot in the arm when it was purchased by InterActive Corp, the internet services and home shopping company run by Barry Diller. Like most smart Davids taking on much bigger Goliaths, Ask.com selected an asymmetric strategy…
In other words, Ask.com plans on thriving by not taking on the big boys head-to-head, but by securing a unique niche based on a different approach to searching the Web. â€œItâ€™s not a question of being better â€“ itâ€™s just different,â€ adds Rahul Lahiri, head of product management. â€œIt isnâ€™t a zero-sum game.â€
As I see it, this is the correct use of an asymmetric strategy. When we see non-state actors using asymmetric strategies to challenge the U.S. or other western powers, they generally understand that they have opted for a lose-lose scenario (I’m going to hurt the big guy even if it kills me). Ask.com is looking for an approach where everyone can continue to win. Smart. Differentiation is the holy grail that most businesses look for in order to separate themselves from the competition. The company’s first attempt to differentiate itself (and the reason it started life as Ask Jeeves) was to use “human editors to post answers to the most common questions asked on the internet. In spite of promising instant answers to usersâ€™ questions, it could not deal with the wide range of queries that came its way.”
I agree with Stephen that Ask employs asymmetric strategies, but I would add another example. Like Hezbollah, Ask is targeting media. Just as Hezbollah attempts to curry sympathy from the global media and place Lebanese media under armed control, Ask attempts to curry sympathy with large media outlets (such as the Financial Times) while punishing smaller one that criticize it.
For instance, after Catholicgauze issued a negative review of Ask.com Maps, pointing out insane maps such as this:
The Mythical Great Lakes of Australia
Ask.com blacklisted Catholicgauze. My blogfriend’s site is still unreachable through Ask.com
To this day, Catholicgauze’s blogspot blog doesn’t occur in the top ten results for “Catholicgauze” or even “Catholicgauze blogspot.”
Other companies have gone ever farther than Ask.com, using lawfare. These firms and individuals, including former South Dakota Senator Jim Abourezk, Activa Holdings, and NationMaster, Ask.com merely uses its leverage as a small search engine to hurt an ever smaller blog.